2017 FloXC Countdown: #13 Boise State Men
Probable Top Four:
JR Yusuke Uchikoshi (4:05 Mile; 8:48 3K SC; 14:13 5K; 18th at '16 NCAA XC)
SO Miler Haller (14:07 5K; 29:54 10K; 96th at '16 NCAA XC)
SR Michael Vennard (8:09 3K; 13:51 5K; 29:55 10K; 111th at '16 NCAA XC)
JR Andrew Rafla (3:46 1500; 7:57 3K; 14:01 5K; 83rd at '14 NCAA XC; 190th at '16 NCAA XC)
Fifth Man Battle:
SR Rhys Park (8:16 3K; 14:10 5K; 109th at '14 NCAA XC; 242nd at '16 NCAA XC)
SO Addison DeHaven (4:08 Mile; 8:11 3K; 14:19 5K)
FR Ahmed Muhumed (3:52 1500; 8:25 3K)
Ahmed Muhumed via Salem, OR (3:52 1500; 8:25 3K; 14:56 5K XC; 40th at '15 NXN)
Leif Everson via Williston, ND (4:14 1600; 9:12 3200; 15:13 5K XC)
Matt Park via Edmonds, WA (4:15 Mile; 9:18 3200; 15:42 5K XC)
With head coach Corey Ihmel in his fifth year now, the new reign of the Broncos is in full swing. The Boise State men impressed the previous two years with consecutive top-20 national team finishes, and they'll be looking to make that streak a hat trick in 2017 by breaking the top 15.
Their frontrunner is Usuke Uchikoshi, who perhaps also has the most interesting background of the squad. Uchikoshi was one of the top Japanese distance preps with an impressive 13:59 5K PR in high school. He's been unable to better that PR in four seasons of collegiate running so far, but that may not matter in the end as his 18th-place individual showing at NCAAs last year was definitely more impressive than his mark.
Junior Andrew Rafla straddles that line between the Boise State of old (having not qualified for NCAAs any time from 1996 to 2014) and new (having racked up 16th and 19th-place team finishes the last two years). He was the only Bronco to run at the 2014 NCAA meet as a true freshman individual qualifier, and he had a solid showing with his 83rd place finish. Rafla didn't run in 2015 and his 2016 NCAA finish of 190th wasn't the most encouraging, but should he return to form in 2017 he'll have a chance to score some solid points.
Showing more recent form than Rafla would be senior Michael Vennard and sophomore Miler Haller. They both can approach XC from a strength background, holding the top two track 10K times on the squad with their 29:55 and 29:54 PRs. Vennard has the better speed with an 8:09 3K and 13:51 5K, but nonetheless Haller finished 15 spots ahead of Vennard at last year's big dance in finishing 96th. It would be a huge boost for the Broncos if the duo could push each other to top-100 finishes.
One true freshman that could make an impact is Ahmed Muhumed. With a 3:52 1500 PR, Muhumed has the requisite speed to excel at the college XC level, though his senior XC season was less impressive than his junior year when he set his 1500 PR and finished 40th at NXN. He'll have to compete with redshirt freshman Addison DeHaven for that last scoring spot, as DeHaven is coming off 4:08 and 14:19 mile and 5K PRs of his own in the Boise singlet.
The Broncos may have completed their ascension to the top, but the true test of will be whether they can make that jump from a upper-teens team finish to closing in on the top 15 at nationals. With the talent as present as ever in a maturing team, Boise's year to pass that test may be right in front of us.
FULL MEN'S RANKINGS HERE